Unless you are a dentist, it isn’t likely that you love trips to the dentist. You might even get nervous or anxious with every visit. With that being said, imagine how you feel before each dentist appointment and amplify that. Then you might begin to understand how your child feels for their dental appointments.
It is possible to ease those anxious feelings and help your child feel more comfortable at the dentist’s office. You might even find some of these tips working for yourself. The team at The Village Dental Center has compiled a list of tips to help ease your child’s fear of the dentist.
- Start Young
Don’t wait until your child is 5 years old to take them to their first dental appointment. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), your child should have their first appointment by age 1, or within six months after their first tooth appears. While this is important for their dental health, starting them earlier will also help them to become more familiar with their dentist and the new surroundings at the dentist’s office.
- Answer Their Questions
Children are much more receptive than we give them credit for. When they ask questions about why they have to go, or what the dentists are going to do to their teeth, answer them. The unknown is scary to children and adults alike. Explain to them beforehand exactly what to expect so they aren’t surprised when the dentist puts their hand in their mouth or lowers their seat back unexpectedly.
To go one step further with this, ask the dentist to explain what they are doing as they examine your child. This will help to build trust with the dentist. Encourage your child to ask the dentist questions before they begin the examination.
- Don’t Use Scary Words
When you explain to your child what will take place, try avoiding the “scary” words like “shot,” “hurt,” “poke,” “bleed,” etc. This might seem obvious, but as soon as you say the phrase “they’ll give you a shot”, that is all your child will be able to associate with the appointment until it happens. You want to do everything you can to lessen their anxiety, not add to it.
- Take a Tour of the Dentist’s Office
Helping your child to become more familiar with the dentist’s office and their staff will lessen their fear and, if it’s a fun environment, could even excite them, especially if they know they won’t be prodded at every time they visit. Familiarity builds trust with the dentist and comfort at the thought of visiting.
- Let Them Take Control
Don’t drag your child back to the chair or tell them what to do as soon as their name is called. Let them take control. If it’s their first visit, you may need to explain what will happen before hand or guide them along, but ultimately, let them tell you it is time to go back when they hear their name. Most children want to be independent and it helps build their confidence in themselves and their situation.
- Stay Calm
Like wild animals, children can sense fear. It’s easy to worry for our children, but if you are giving off anxious vibes, especially on their behalf, what reason do they have not to be scared? You, as the parent, need to exude confidence in your child and the dentist. Believe the words that you are telling them, and they will believe it too.